Monday, December 01, 2008

Abundance out of Simplicity

How to create abundance out of simplicity? That is the magic I attempt to create each Christmas. Abundance, because Christmas is about the abundance of God's blessings: symbolized by the diversity and array of the ornaments on the Christmas tree. Simplicity, because we are an American family, and material goods of every description are constantly drawn to us as though by magnetism.

On the one hand, we dread being awash in piles of useless clutter that clogs the rhythmn of our lives and gluts our senses. On the other hand, we both need and desire various material goods, goods which bring a pleasure of their own and which have either a usefulness or a beauty that delights us. Navigating the pulls of both poles is the feat we attempt each holiday season.

How to celebrate poverty with abundance, simplicity with festivity -- that is the paradox of preparation for Christmas.

One time-tested strategy we've adopted is the Rule of Three Gifts: our little Lord Jesus only received three gifts Himself: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so our children receive the same (plus a stocking). And we warn them to only set their heart on one gift, and be open to what else they might recieve. Thus, they only ask for one, knowing they will only get three.

Last year I wrapped each of the three gifts in a different color paper, stacked them into a pyramid, and tied the stack with thin red ribbon. To create abundance with three gifts, I try to make each a different sort of gift that can be used in a different way: for instance, a fun book, a toy, and a pretty piece of clothing.

This past year our three girls received decorative clog boots from Hanna Andersson that I had miraculously caught on clearance. I packed colored felt, wool, and pipe cleaners into tin boxes for the older girls along with small craft books. My younger daughter was delighted by a Kusi doll from Nova Natural. And is traditional, they each received a fairy tale book from their father and I. Small dolls, accessories, and candy crept their way into the stockings.

My older son received a longer book, computer equipment, and the remote control toy he had his eye on. His younger brother received wooden horses for his knights, a book and CD on knights, and was surprised by a racetrack set from his godfather. (The latter gift did not survive Christmas week, but provided hours of family entertainment while it lasted.)

Gifts beyond three are given to the family at large, or saved for Epiphany. Typically any gift that arrives via mail or visit during the Twelve Days of Christmas is stockpiled for Epiphany. These gifts are the "surplus" that come out of God's blessings, and yes, sometimes there are more gifts on Epiphany than on Christmas! God has His own way of creating abundance.


Kathleen said...

Regina, thank you for this post. It certainly provides food for thought. I would like to try this for my boys. We have a large extended family which buys for the kids (as we do for their kids). Maybe the 'rule of three' would keep it from getting too overwhelming. I appreciate your beautiful blog!

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I love the Rule of Three Gifts! =D

amy said...

I do struggle with keeping things simple at Christmas. Thank you for your insight.

Kathleen Miller said...


Some wonderful food for thought here.

On a side note- for a look at some great children's books, please stop in at my blog for a visit.

May this Advent season bring you and your family many blessings!

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

I love this post, because you acknowledge the pleasure that material goods (and needs!) bring at Christmas.

We don't have a buy-nothing or make-everything rule at our house, no matter how tempting it sounds in books.

Instead, we often defer major purchases throughout the year to Christmas, when meeting these needs becomes a highly anticipated event.

Mod Girl said...

We do the three gift rule as well.

Thank you for sharing, this is such a beautiful, balanced, and encouraging post!

LeeAnn said...

I have to admit, the fatal flaw in my recurring plans to try to space out the gift giving to Epiphany is my burning desire to get my bedroom closet clear of gift detritus! It's *so* much easier to just dump it all under the tree on Christmas eve (how nice that sounds, huh?) rather than parcel out a little bit here and there--and hopefully remember to do so (my other flaw: absentmindedness). It would be nicer for the kids to be able to appreciate what they are receiving--and we don't overload them with gifts by any means--but we do give a lot of books and even that can be overwhelming when you get five or six of them in one go. This year, I'll try restraint and offer up my irritation at closet clutter--no matter how goofy and inconsequential that is! Thank you for the inspiration, Regina.

Anonymous said...

We do it the same way Meridith because it's the way I grew up. We didn't get things/presents/anything during the year. My parents always said remember it for Christmas or your birthday. Christmas was always highly anticipated because we never got anything any other time except our birthdays and that was always low key and usually clothes.

G.L.H. said...

Every year, we talked about having only three gifts, but dear hubby always ended up showering the children with gifts he "just couldn't resist." (like our Heavenly Father, who showers us with blessings!)

However, we did follow the rule to always have Something to Wear, Something to Read, and Something to Do--just like your idea of three gifts.

Beautiful post!


Lisa said...

As far as trying to remember what they want throughout the year I have a paper inside a cabinet and write down everything they say they want so I don't forget and then we go over it right before a bday or Christmas to make sure it is still what they want. And also this helps when family asks what they want I can look at the list. So, that has helped me a lot. Lisa

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful post. We do a rule of 4 at our house for Christmas. It is something my grandma did when she was little and it just passed on. We go by the following poem:

Something you want,
something you need.
Something to wear,
something to read.

For instance, this year our 18 year old daughter is getting and I Love Lucy dvd (want), a new wallet (need!), a fleece sweatshirt (wear), and a magazine subscription (read). All in all I spent about $65 on her. We only give to our 2 children and their Sunday school teachers, bus driver, etc. We spend about $150-$175 each year on Christmas.


Linda said...

I'm just amazed ;)

'only' three gifts? 3 gifts is a lot! In Holland, it's normal for parents to just buy one gift for each kid.. one gift for everyone.... And no stockings.. so unless you have a REALLY big family, you'll end up with 3 gifts or so in total :)

greetings from holland!